“The myth of misogyny: a re-analysis of women’s inheritance in Islamic law”

In this article Chaudhry argues that the ratio of distribution between men and women is not two to one in all cases where men and women of the same class are inheriting together, and more importantly, that the distribution of inheritance through the fixed shares legislated by the Qur’an is not inherently gender-discriminatory, nor based on concepts of gender inferiority. If this was true, it would violate the two most central concepts of Islamic law. Part II elucidates the basic sources of Islamic law and these two important concepts which guide all Islamic legislation -- the pillars around which Islamic law evolves -- the concept of the intent of the law (maqasid) and the theory of effective causes of the law (ta’lil). Part III introduces the fixed shares of inheritance set forth in the Qur’an as they relate to several different classes of women. Part IV then analyzes the fixed shares in light of the concepts of maqasid and ta’lil, concluding that these two vital principles would be violated by the understanding that ratio differences, where they do exist, are based on gender inferiority. Part IV also attempts to discover what cause may exist for a two to one ratio in certain cases, and how women’s shares may in fact be augmented by other provisions of Islamic law. Part V offers a brief comparison of women’s inheritance laws in Islam with the succession laws of the United States.

Chaudhry, Zainab
Source publication: 
Albany Law Review 61 (Winter), pp. 511-555